Rail passenger services lost 600 million per week in 2021 so far

source: NMBS

The Covid-19 pandemic continues to impact heavily on European rail. Passenger revenues remain at only half of what they were in pre-crisis times. These are the findings of the latest ‘Covid Impact Tracker’ carried out in April by the Community of European Railway and Infrastructure companies (CER) among its members. The impact on infrastructure managers was also investigated for the first time, showing a decrease of more than 10 percent since the start of this year.

Compared to 2020 as a whole, 2021 so far is off worse with 10 percent more financial loss for rail passenger services. After a small relief in summer 2020, passenger losses started to worsen in October to reach -51 percent in November 2020, compared to the same period of 2019. Losses consistently remained at around -51 percent during the next four months until March 2021. The weekly losses amount to nearly 600 million euros per week in the 27 EU countries.

With the new numbers on the impact of the pandemic, CER also voiced a call for financial support, saying “targeted support to railways to mitigate the negative impact of Covid-19 is urgently needed and is indispensable for the sector’s recovery and future growth”.

Rail infrastructure

Investigated for the first time in April 2021 by CER, infrastructure data has shown a sharp 13 percent decrease of infrastructure managers’ revenues since the start of 2021. In the first quartile of 2021, losses are almost as high as what they were in the first half of 2020 at the start of the corona crisis. There are multiple reasons for this, according CER, but their respective weight has not yet been determined.

CER Executive Director Alberto Mazzola: “Achieving the European Green Deal objectives will require a significant modal shift to rail. Railways have the capacity to support both recovery and Europe’s sustainable transition but we need to ensure that they emerge strong enough from this crisis to do so. Substantial compensation of current losses, but also lowering charges on operators while compensating infrastructure managers for the related lost revenues, are indispensable to help the sector get through this difficult period.”

Freight losses

Rail freight suffered also significant losses, but less so than passenger services. Following an almost normal month of December in 2020, freight revenues plummeted to -10 per cent in January, March and April. In February, loss in revenue even reached 11 percent. In March, average weekly losses were above 30 million euros per week, according to the CER figures.

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Author: Esther Geerts

Editor RailTech.com

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